Does charity really begin at home?

Turn on the telly or radio and you’ll here adverts for numerous charities helping people both at home and in far-flung corners of the world. Walk in to any town, city or shopping centre and you will be hard pressed to find someone asking for your money on behalf of one charity or another. They can be found positioned tactically on a busy thoroughfare or in the doorway or entrance of a large shop or store. It isn’t exactly a rare site to walk past a homeless person hoping for any spare change.

A great many of us are too quick to pretend we have a call on our mobile phone, to be suddenly engrossed in something else, or even to just plain look the other way and hurry past. And this isn’t meant as a criticism, with so many people seemingly in desperate need of our money – which, let’s face it, is stretched ever thinner at a time of rising costs. Lots of people have a charity or cause closer to their hearts than others for one reason or other, and they tend to donate exclusively to these. No problem there, I would be the first to admit I do this – I can’t afford to help all charities, so I drop my spare change to those I want to.

But how many of us mutter and mumble under our breath about being hassled by charity collectors on a busy, rainy day in town? I would wager a good number of us do, I have done. But after seeing a video doing the rounds on the World Wide Web, I will certainly think again about how I react. In the video, a man sets out to test our reactions under certain circumstances, by standing in a busy town centre in the all-too-familiar sandwich board. Take a look at what happened.

Ok, so this guy takes things to an extreme with his choice of language clearly intent on provoking a deep feeling in people who he accosts. And rather pleasingly, most people he encounters (including a police officer) reacts with disgust and indignation at his attitude and offensive sentiment. But it’s the second half of the video that certainly makes me think. Once he swaps the sandwich board and flyers for something far less offensive, and tries to drum up support for the poor, things completely flip on their head. The masses of people walking by him appear to not even notice he is there, completely ignoring him and walking on past.

The video hasn’t made me decide to donate to every charity collector I pass, I simply cannot afford to. But I will think twice before I grumble and moan under my breath about the number of collectors after my spare change on a cold, wet winter day in town. Many charities are worthy of our support, and while they may not be my charities of choice, they still do good work for those they help.

Anti-whaling, not anti-shark culling…

So recently the Australian government won a landmark international court case to ban Japanese whaling. While whaling will continue, the international courts have ruled that hunting of cetaceans in the Southern Ocean of the Antarctic is to end. On the face of it, this is a wonderful, noble cause for the Australian government to back. The unnecessary hunting of the gentle ocean mammals is abhorrent, and has no foundation – for scientific reasons or otherwise.

Dig a little deeper, though, and this court cases smacks of hypocrisy of the highest order. While calling for the world to ban the Japanese from whaling, they continue in their cull of sharks perceived to be hazardous to human life. While no Great Whites have as yet been caught and killed, if and when they are, this could pose a major problem for the species. Great whites take a long time to reach sexual maturity, longer than it takes them to grow to 3 metres (the minimum size of sharks being culled). Killing off the animals based on their size will tip an already vulnerable (according to the IUCN’s red list of endangered animals) animal closer to extinction. The 3m kill rule means large numbers of the potential breeding stock of great whites could be at risk, which is of great concern given how little is known about the global population of great whites.

To date, the government have endorsed the culling of 63 tiger sharks, two makos and a black tip shark. Not to mention the “collateral” in terms of non-shark species accidentally caught or killed. But let’s pat them all on the shoulder for supporting the ban of Japanese whaling, in the hopes it provides a convenient smoke screen to their own ocean culling.